The home of Critic, Writer and Film-maker: Liam Walters

Primeval: Series 5 Episode 5 Review


Written By: Philip Lickley

*** Contains spoilers ***

Wow. So this was the big one for the series so far, methinks. But how did the latest episode of series five stack up in the pantheon of Primeval?

Well it certainly has been the episode with the widest scope and ambition and one that had to bring a lot to the screen and treat it well and with lots of consideration. Did it manage it? In the whole, yes.

After last’s week cliffhanger of Philip starting up the machine that will create a big anomaly we’d expect to pick up with that, but instead the episode kicks off right into the action with two teenage girls finding themselves stuck in a typical scene from a nightmare: a large T-Rex is on the rampage, eating people, and general causing a nuisance, in one of the most impressive examples of CGI you’ll ever see on a television show. Whereas, admittedly 17 years ago, Jurassic Park had to rely on weather, rain and darkness to cover up the gaps in CGI, here we have the most famous of dinosaurs running around in broad daylight and it looked fantastic.

Post-credits we re-join the ARC team with a full complement of cast. There is some great humour from Ben Miller and Ben Mansfield as Lester and Becker as the team discuss the impact of Matt’s true identity and Philip’s machine, before being interrupted by the man himself. It’s then onto the most crucial part of the episode. Ever thought Primeval was unrealistic for not having the average man on the street from not seeing the anomalies? That it wouldn’t spread onto the Internet? For not showing anomalies outside of the UK? Well now there is the chance for the show to prove these things can happen.

The detector picks up the anomaly from the T-Rex which has opened in central London and, naturally, all over the news. Though references to the existence of creatures being mentioned, with the journalist angle of series two and three, and the phone recording of series four, this is the anomaly’s out in the open and known.

With the dinosaur roaming around London it’s up to the team to tackle it and in a thrilling sequence they do, managing to subdue the T-Rex with the EMDs.

Now, in most series, that would be it but that is just the start for the team and we’re only ten minutes in.

It’s now back to the lab and Connor’s attempts at distracting Philip before the sheer scale of what is facing them this week comes to fruition with anomaly’s opening all over the world with radio reports coming into the ARC in a jumbled mess, leading Jess to co-ordinate an operation like never before, one she knows she is going to struggle doing.

And with this comes a neat piece of plot development with Matt’s revelation about convergence, something mentioned in the concluding part of series four by Connor after the two anomalies that opened there. It’s a piece of exposition that fits in perfectly and explains why anomalies occur in a logical and serious way that any fans of QI will be able to believe, nicely tied in with cuts between this scene and that of Philip and Connor.

It’s now up to Matt and Emily to get to New Dawn to stop it from creating the end of the world. It’s a series of quick cuts between the multiple scenarios now that really builds up the tension, between Matt, Phil, Jess and grainy images of monsters all over the world. The feeling of drama and over-arching danger is palpable and effectively put together and there is a little breathing space for each plot development even if, naturally, there isn’t the time for each one, but this builds on the sense of chaos, confusion and inability to be their usual effective selves.

Philip and Connor get attached by a Kaprosuchus in transit and Philip’s true personality is revealed and how much he will do to fulfill his aims; Becker and Abby head to a pre-Cambrian worm in a school; and Ben Miller does his boss piece and tells Matt he has to stop Philip. All this and we’re still thirty minutes in.

There’s still time for Connor to face a monster; Matt and Emily to face up to some Pterosaurs; Abby to rescue Connor; and Matt and Emily to break into New Dawn before being stopped by the menacing April.

Ben Miller justifies his wage packet with an excellent scene with him and Jess, with Lester once more going all hands on as he did in series two, battling with one of the tree raptors, in the meantime him interacting with Becker dealing with another monster from an anomaly and the suggestion he might not be that alright.

It’s then a sprint to the finish as Matt, Abby, Connor and Emily all descend on New Dawn to stop Philip’s plans in a tense final fifteen minutes that sees struggles, lots of technology and Minority Report-esque moves, and the seeming death of one of the newer characters. But it’s all in vain as Matt and Connor’s efforts to stop Philip are thwarted by mindless goons and a back-up plan respectively. As the massive New Dawn anomaly opens all the others close and it looks like Philip has won.

In a tense climax we see Connor absorbed into Philip’s new anomaly, disappearing into the future and Lester and Jess standing in an empty ARC contemplating everything that has happened in the past forty-minutes.

This episode was always going to be a difficult one for a television series on a limited budget but overall it succeeds really well. One shot aside with the girl and the head of the T-Rex that looked false the CGI throughout was excellent. The daytime shots of the T-Rex were in the most flawless; the other creatures well done and fitting in it. There were, however, certain levels of laziness or constraints. I can forgive them recycling all the other creatures from previous episodes and maybe not actually showing the worm in the school, but the re-use of the CCTV footage on the Mammoth on the M25 from series two was disappointing.

Elsewhere the episode was an excellent example of what British drama can achieve even on a limited budget. The concept was well done, and mostly executed well. Naturally it was never going to be able to show lots of creatures all over the world but what it did show was very well done. They did get the sense of scale on the screen with the multiple teams, even if it wasn’t revealed on screen.

A lot of the most memorable parts of the episode come from a mixture of things: the tension built up from the quick editing between scenes, building up the panic and mixing up the separate but inter-twining plotlines of the characters; the humour mixed in with the drama (key scenes: Becker: “can i just shoot something”/ Lester’s bit with his Jag / and many more); the plot developments regarding why anomalies are created; and the overall feeling that series four and five were parts one and two of the same series, with a lot of elements from the previous series coming to fruition here.

So where does this episode leave Primeval? So far the existence of the anomalies has been covered well but now the story is out and I hope they can tackle it well. The closest modern example we have is Doctor Who which has seen the world attacked by millions of Daleks and Cybermen but still few people talk about? Primeval has never been shy of covering things like YouTube and eBay etc, so I hope they tackle this well in the final episode or in, ITV please commission it, series six.

We are also left with Becker presumably in serious trouble, Emily unconscious, Connor in the future, and Philip victorious. The trailer of the final episode shows Matt, Abby and Connor in the future with the return of the future predators, so it seems to be an action packed finally.

Overall episode five had a lot to cram into forty-five minutes. Though its budget-dictating recycling of creatures is understandable if not entirely welcomed the camera work, editing, humour, quality of CGI and sheer amount of character and plot development made this an excellent episode and a perfect example of why the BBC and ITV should treat its home-grown drama better if recently Internet articles on the BBC’s flagship sci-fi show are to be believed. There’s not many shows that would have the appearance of a T-Rex and it not being the most crucial part of the episode.

I am looking forward to seeing the concluding episode of series five and hope it’s not the last we’ll see of Primeval, with a series that has ramped up the quality of its CGI and plot to rival other sci-fi shows on television, as well as how a show deals with the public knowing about the anomalies, hopefully better than Doctor Who has treated a similar subject.

*** My final review of Primeval will be late next week but will be also followed by a look back at Primeval series five and a look forward to what I’d like to see from series six and British sci-fi in general ***

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